AI won’t replace content folk — but we must show our worth

AI won’t replace content folk — but we must show our worth

A woman with long red hair smiling warmly in front of a whiteboard

A few months back, I was in a meeting when talk turned to ChatGPT.

Someone told a story about a company that needed a slogan. They had hired a copywriter to craft something for them. They had also asked ChatGPT.

“All of the options were presented to the board — and they preferred the one by ChatGPT!” they said chuckling. “Who needs copywriters anymore?”

Sadly, I didn’t have the knowledge or wit to say what I would today.

That, firstly, those slogans were written by copywriters because they had likely been generated from analysing slogans and other content created by real, human writers. No doubt none of whom will have seen a penny from the use (exploitation?) of their hard work.

And secondly, that copywriter had probably done a hell of a lot of grunt work defining the company’s offering so a decent prompt could be written for ChatGPT in the first place.

But, I digress.

Because my bigger fear was this. If this person — who has a serious job in design — holds these views, then could these attitudes filter through to how people see writers in the technology space?

We’re already at the bottom of the pack

Let’s face it: it’s not as if content designers can stand to be taken down a peg or two. For many of us, every new job or day on the payroll is a battle to show what we do and how we add value.

UX writer Sam Saenz sums it up here:

Unfortunately, no matter how big or evolved companies are, content is still not taken as seriously as design for whatever reason…It’s been an uphill battle at every company I’ve ever worked for. People don’t understand exactly what we do, the value we bring, and worse, sometimes they just don’t care.”

She’s not alone.

In a survey from this year, content designers cited 2 of their top 3 challenges as “not being in meetings” and “lack of influence”. Not the usual gripes like ‘lack of time’ or ‘low salary’ or ‘too much pressure’. Being irrelevant.

It’s something I’ve heard time and again. From this person, for example. Or this one. It’s certainly something I have seen in my time. Even seasoned digital professionals don’t always fully understand my role.

And this is something that, if we don’t tackle it, could get worse.

Because there are now tools that will help people create digital products that, on the surface, look great. So if people don’t understand the deeper work we’re doing, to solve the right problem, in the right way, then we could start to find our positions undermined, sidelined — or worse.

Let’s change the narrative

Look, these bots are good but they’re not that good. We need to show that most of what we do can’t be done by AI.

Things like those delicate conversations with stakeholders about language. Or generating ideas for new products and flows. Or challenging whether we need this complicated feature/app/200-page report at all.

The words are often the fastest bit. The bulk of the work, in my experience, is what happens before and after you’ve put pen to paper.

And even in places where AI can do things, many companies have recognised that AI lacks the emotional intelligence to be able to write as well as a human writer. It’s not just about choosing words. It’s about choosing words, for that screen, in that journey, for that person, in that mood, trying to do that specific thing.

Finally, we need to show that we can embrace these tools and become the stewards of them. In this rapidly changing world, we can be the experts in the selection and use of AI content creation tools, just as interaction designers have become the experts in prototyping tools.

We gotta plug, plug, plug

We can’t change the narrative though if we’re not speaking up.

And if you look at numbers of stories published on this platform, there’s a big disparity in the number of people writing about content design versus other design disciplines.

For example, at the time of writing there are around 2,200 stories about content design and 9,000 stories about UX writing. That compares to just over 8,000 stories about interaction design and a whopping 89,000 stories about UX design.

That means just 9% of user-centred design stories are about content or UX writing. And we wonder why we’re undervalued?

That’s why we need to get better at promoting our work. I didn’t write anything or speak up for years. But now I see that my fear of sticking my head above the parapet has stopped me owning my achievements. And when people downplayed my contribution, I let it happen.

Not anymore. Now, I take up space and we should all do the same. We should show our worth. Be proud of what we’ve achieved. Write stuff and share it in discussion forums. And if someone else shares their writing, like it, share it. Let’s be each other’s champions and allies.

In the survey I cited earlier, there was a quote from someone about the biggest problem they faced at their company.

[My biggest issue is] not gaining visibility with leadership — designers get all the credit during design reviews even though I’ve worked on each design!

I hear you, friend. Change starts with us.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

AI won’t replace content folk — but we must show our worth was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.






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